Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #4

TITLE: Forever My Heart
GENRE: Adult Contemporary Romance

A low creak was all that greeted her as Kat Chavis walked through the shadowed hallways. She always arrived an hour earlier than everyone else on the first day of school. For another nine months, it wouldn’t be this quiet again. There would be laughter and tears bouncing between the walls.

Honestly, she loved the sound more than the quiet, but part of her wasn’t ready for the new year. This would be her third year as Seaside Elementary’s principal, and her last if the school’s image didn’t improve. People didn’t want to send their kid to the “scary” school, where kids got beat up and fifth graders begged their parents to drop out.

Those had only been media exaggerations. The child hadn’t really wanted to drop out. He’d just been upset. In fact, he’d ended the year with all A’s, not that the newspaper had printed that detail. Good news didn’t sell. A too-young principal with a tragic past was what sold. And for the life of her, Kat didn’t know who was responsible for leaking the lack luster details of her life to those who could inflate them.

Another long creak came from the end of the Sand Fiddler’s hallway. Kat started in that direction. She wasn’t scared of the Seaside ghost anymore. Not that she believed in him. She didn’t.

Not much.

“Hey, Buddy,” she called as her heels clicked along the freshly waxed floors. “The kids are coming back today. Get ready.”


  1. This feels a little rough to me, but it's really fun and intriguing, too. When you're not trying to compress that "hook" line at the end into the first 250 words, I'd recommend playing around a bit more with the environment, letting her interact with it a bit so we have an escalating sense that those creaks aren't just a happenstance.

  2. I thought Kat was supposed to have arrived before everyone else, yet she calls out to someone named Buddy. Was she talking to the ghost she doesn’t believe in? That seems kind of odd.

    While the back story is interesting and sets up some of the challenges Kat is faced with on a daily basis, I don’t feel like I have any clue as to the direction of this story. So, even though I liked the back story, I’m not sure I’d have put it in at the beginning. Maybe ease that information in a little later so you can get to some action on the first page.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  3. This sounds paranormal to me.

    It also feels like too much to soon. I understand you're trying to set up her background a little bit. But the incident from the prior year with the kid we don't care about is too much detail. It would be far more interesting to stick to the present day and allude to her dicey past. Leave us wondering what happened.

    Also consider combining the last two sentences of the first paragraph. "For another nine months, there would be laughter..."

    It will be equally quiet early in the morning and after school hours. Alternatively you could say why it won't be quiet. Not only the kids, but teachers and parents waiting to speak with the principal, perhaps?

  4. I liked it, but like the others I feel like you are trying to give us a bit of background detail but instead that takes away from your story. Especially adding that kid. I suggest that you stick on the present and strengthen that. Still liked it though. Especially the ending when she greets the ghost if it does exist.

  5. I'm not a romance reader, so take my comments for what they're worth....I like the overall tone of this but it needs some tightening up. The last sentence of the first paragraph didn't connect as well as it could have with the previous sentence. I thought there was too much detail about the kid and the news media this early in the story. I do find myself wondering who she's talking to.

  6. I like the overall tone and idea of this. A principal at a failing school that may or may not be haunted. Seems like a good set up for a contemporary romance. (I don't actually read them, so I can't say if the premise will stand out, only that I like it.)I also like the quiet, slightly eerie atmosphere of the empty school.

    However, I think you're including too much backstory. You put the MC in the setting and then everything stops while she contemplates and remembers. Better to let the day unfold and work in the details of her past as the action makes them relevant.

  7. This is all backstory which makes for a slow start. You may want to consider starting somewhere else, because even if you take out the backstory, the MC’s still wandering an empty school alone which isn’t all that compelling – unless she encounters something that could be ghostly or paranormal.

    That’s also the tone you’re setting with the ghost – paranormal. Is the romance a subplot or the main plot?

    You might change the first sentence to – A low creak was all that greeted Kat Chavis as she walked . . . Putting the ‘her’ first can imply ‘her’ and Kat Chavis are two different people. And since the creak has some importance, you might make a bit more of it.

    In parg 3 – ‘Those’ had been media exaggerations . . . but she only justifies the drop out. She doesn’t talk about getting beat up. If you say ‘those’ you should explain both incidents, since ‘those’ is plural, and if you don’t, it is assumed the getting beat up issue is real, that it really happens.

  8. I won't lie, I was bored as F&^# reading this.

    The first paragraph was lovely, though. However, you meessed up the last sentence of what would have been gorgeous imagery by misusing a sense. Laughter is a sound, tears are not; crying would be more appropriate here but I think it doesn't flow as easily as the word tears, so take that with a grain of salt.

    The second and third paragraphs were where I fell asleep. I would much rather you show us this information than telling us in such a boring way. Perhaps, and this is just an idea, she can pass next to a newspaper and see a story of what occured; she reads a few lines and THEN you give us a little--not a lot--of her thoughts on the matter.

    The foruth paragraph is where things started getting...weird. And it's not so much as what it contained but HOW it was done. You see, you start off with a young albiet troubled principal walking through her school reflecting on kid gangsters and a tragic (porn?) past, and then--OMGIJUSTDIED!--a ghost. It's too sudden. It's too Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana. It's too...unnecessary.

    Good Luck.

  9. This is an interesting opening. We like the fact that we immediately know what the conflict is going to be, although we’re a little confused about the reference to the ghost. Mentioning the ghost so soon makes me wonder if this is of importance later or not, because it doesn’t seem like something you’d find in contemporary romance.

  10. What's interesting about the backstory comments is I just downloaded a contemporary romance from a bestselling big name author, and the beginning was even more of an info-dump than this--it was all backstory with no present day action. Always such a curious thing when you hear writing advice and then see published authors who completely ignore it.

    So, I personally don't mind hints of backstory on a first page, but I think it's a good goal to strive to keep the scene current with just hints of it rather than too much exposition and explaining. It's a really delicate balance. I think this entry probably just needs a few tweaks to keep the setting current and moving.

    My only nitpick is the first line which I think might read better with stating the character's name first rather than a "her" we don't yet know:

    A low creak was all that greeted Kat Chavis as she walked through the shadowed hallways.


    A low creak was all that greeted Kat Chavis in the shadowed hallway.

  11. Stephsco, the rules are very different when you're trying to get your foot in the door. You don't have a proven track record, nor are you bringing in money for your publisher. So, there is no reason for them to pardon obvious flaws.

    You have to do things as stringently as possible as an unpublished author. Once you get in, grow a fan base and sell some books--heck--do what you want.

  12. I liked this, perhaps because I also have an education background, so would like to see more.